Veteran teacher Linda Pike, of Jupiter Middle School of Technology, spent her summer doing extreme science at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee. She learned how to examine nanomaterials using state-of-the-art technology. “This has been an incredible, wonderful experience,” said Ms. Pike, who has been teaching in Palm Beach County for 23 years. “I think it’s going to change the way I teach.”
The 7th-grade science teacher was one of 11 teachers selected for the lab’s prestigious Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program. Teachers accepted into the paid internship work with scientists who do pioneering research in physics, chemistry, biological sciences, geochemistry, materials science, magnet science and engineering. The teachers learn how to use advanced technology to explore materials and phenomena at extreme magnetic fields, pressures and temperatures. Best of all, they do it while working alongside some of the finest scientists, magnet designers and engineers in the world.
Ms. Pike worked with Eric Hellstrom, a professor at the Florida A&M University – Florida State University School of Engineering, scholar scientist Jianyi Jiang, and graduate students in the Applied Superconductivity Center. She learned how to examine materials that are critical to an international energy project called ITER (pronounced E-ter). ITER is a massive effort to create and control the same energy that powers the sun — fusion energy. That energy would then be channeled into powering much of the world.
“I’d never heard of it before I came here,” Ms. Pike said of the ITER project headquartered in France. “I think that it’s just amazing. It boggles the mind.” She wants to expose her students to the concept of fusion and the ITER project this year. She also hopes to incorporate more “inquiry” projects in her classes. Such science projects often begin with a question (e.g., Why is the sky blue?) and proceed with a plan to answer the question.
While at the lab, Ms. Pike worked with samples of superconducting wire — wire that conducts electricity with no resistance and no loss of current. She examined superconducting wires made from a form of bismuth strontium calcium copper oxide (or BSCCO, pronounced “bisko”) called Bi-2212. Each wire was smaller than a straight pin.
She and her teammate — teacher Kim Perez from Tallahassee — also learned how to make a puck to contain their nanosamples of superconducting wire. They learned how to grind and polish the puck, then examine the wires using an extremely powerful scanning electron microscope.
The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory develops and operates state-of-the-art, high-magnetic-field facilities that faculty and visiting scientists and engineers use for research. The laboratory is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the state of Florida. To learn more visit www.magnet.fsu.edu.
Editor, Public Affairs
National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
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